Burma Remains in Limbo International Community Fails to Increase Pressure against Junta

Article excerpt

SINCE a military junta seized power in Burma in 1988, two opposing policies toward the illegitimate government have been followed by the outside world: "constructive engagement" and "disengagement."

Constructive engagement is followed by the most important of Burma's neighboring countries: China, Thailand, and the ASEAN group. The disengagement policy was proposed by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates at the 49th United Nations Commission on Human Rights in February 1993. So far, the disengagement policy has not been wholly adopted or endorsed by the UN, the United States, the European Community, and many other free-world countries, despite adoption of resolutions charging the ruling junta with violating the fundamental human rights of the Burmese people. The junta is not honoring the result of the 1990 multiparty election that was won by a landslide by the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since 1989.

On Jan. 1, 1993, after three years of propagandizing the democratization of Burma, the junta arbitrarily selected some 720 delegates to attend the National Convention under duress with no freedom of expression permitted against the military regime.

At the same time, "the leading role for the Burmese army," or the generals in Burmese politics, was forced upon delegates in drafting the constitution. The convention has been going on and off for more than three months, and on April 9 it was postponed until June 7, 1993, after more than three months of discussing and drafting the 15 chapter headings of the so-called "Constitution of the People."

At the same time, the generals have succeeded in forcing the delegates to incorporate the chapter on Tatmadaw, the Army, as one of the chapters in the constitution.

As a recent political ploy to boost its image abroad, the junta has twice allowed informal fact-finding visits to Burma made by present and former members of the US House of Representatives. In February 1993, the visitors were Reps. William Archer (R) of Texas and Nancy Johnson (R) of Connecticut. The military officials took them on a five-day tour of different regions. On March 25, Mr. Archer and Ms. Johnson testified before the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, concerning US policy toward Burma and Southeast Asia. Based upon this brief experience, each of them spoke of the "impressive" pace of political and economic change in Burma during the preceding 18 months.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California challenged that assessment, and a UN official who visited Burma twice this year described the situation as reported to the UN Commission on Human Rights as "depressive."

AT the same hearing, Miriam Marshall Segal, a US businesswoman who owns the Myanmar-American Fishery Company, a joint venture formed in 1990 with the Myanmar Fishery Enterprise, recommended the US give Burma most favored nation (MFN) status. …